Battle Royal Assignments


Assignment 1


  1. Discuss how the protagonist’s expectations are similar to what has come to be known as the American dream — the assumption that ambition, hard work, perseverance, intelligence, and virtue always lead to success.
  2. How does the first paragraph of the story sum up the conflict that the narrator confronts? In what sense is he “invisible”?
  3. What is the symbolic significance of the naked blonde? What details reveal that she represents more than a sexual tease in the story?
  4. How does the battle in the boxing ring and the scramble for money afterward suggest the kind of control whites have over blacks in the story?
  5. How can the dream at the end of the story be related to the major incidents that precede it?
  6. Given the grandfather’s advice, explain how “meekness” can be a “dangerous activity” and a weapon against oppression.
  7. Imagine the story as told from a third-person point of view. How would this change the story? Do you think the story would be more or less effective told from a third-person point of view?
  8. Read: Compare and contrast Elli-son’s view of the South with William Faulk ner’s in “A Rose for Emily”.

Assignment 2


Read Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise speech

Read W.E.B DuBois:


  • What did you learn from these two African American statesmen and scholars about the condition of the Black man and woman in the United States after the Civil War? What answers did they hold out to African Americans? Which statesman, Washington or DuBois, do you think has the stronger argument? Why?
  • How does knowledge about Civil Rights help you understand the conflict in the story “Battle Royal”? Be specific in your answer.
  • What are the hints of how young the girl in the story really is?
  • What does she learn during this night with her new husband?
  • Does her husband seem much older to you or closer to her age?
  • What does he value? Do you think he is being honest with her? Why or why not?
  • The closing scene is particularly disturbing — she is afraid of his buttering her toast with his hand holding the knife. She pauses, reflects, and kisses the ring on his hand. What is this a sign of? Is she being affectionate or something else? Think back through history — what other types of men generally had their rings kissed, and what did such obeisence represent?
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